We don't place a lot of emphasis on each individual cow's performance when we test milk, but we always look to see who had the highest weight. The queen of the barn doesn't get any special treatment, it's just interesting to see who had the best test.
Malibu was the queen of the barn after our last test. She also surpassed Pigeon as the record holder for best test ever. As we were marveling at Malibu's accomplishment, Glen suddenly said, "But you can't write about this. You might jinx her."
As much as I wanted to commemorate Malibu's success, I knew Glen was right. When I share pictures of cute calves on my blog or write about cows in my columns, crazy things tend to happen to those animals. And the last thing I wanted to do was mess up what could be a record-setting lactation for Malibu.
Apparently, just talking about writing about Malibu's test was enough to jinx her. One morning, a week after we tested, we found a big pile of uneaten TMR in front of Malibu's stall. She quickly developed a bad case of dysentery-like digestive upset.
And, then, as if having one top-notch cow get sick wasn't bad enough, Pigeon got sick the next day. The odd part is that Malibu and Pigeon were standing right next to each other in the barn.
The bad got worse when both Malibu and Pigeon were no longer able to get up. The vet came, we sent blood samples to the lab, and Pigeon's results showed that her calcium levels were low. Glen had given Malibu a bottle of calcium a couple hours before the vet came, so her results were within the normal range.
So, Glen gave Pigeon a bottle of calcium, too. Three minutes later, she went into cardiac arrest and died.
We tried not to be upset, saying that Pigeon had lived a good long life and she died quickly without much suffering.
Pigeon was the oldest cow in the herd; the only one left of all the cows we bought when we started farming. She had lived and milked on four different farms. She was the lifetime milk leader in our herd, by a long shot.
We bought Pigeon from Glen's cousins when she was in her first lactation. She was due to go dry a couple weeks after we got her, so we dried her up and moved her into the dry cow pasture. A couple hours later, she had jumped the four-strand barbed-wire fence and was back with the milk cows. We put her back in the dry cow pasture and, a little while later, she was back with the milk cows. This scene repeated itself several times, prompting us to name her Pigeon, after the homing pigeons that always return home.
Pigeon's fence-jumping was forgiven when she delivered a heifer calf two months later, a feisty little thing we named Sassy. Pigeon went on to give us six more lactations and five more heifer calves - Patriot, Piper, Prancer, Pixel and Pumpkin - and develop her own genetic line within our herd.
Only Bitsy and Hope have added as many daughters to our herd as Pigeon did. Malibu is right behind with five daughters - Maui, Misty, Mai-Tai, Mahalo, and Morgan.
Thankfully, there's a chance that Malibu will be around long enough to add a sixth daughter to her list of progeny.
After being down for seven days, Malibu is now standing again.
Normally, when we have a cow who is willing to try to get up, but just needs time and better footing, we bring her outside through the front door (since the main door for the cows is at the top of a set of steps). But since the TMR conveyor is broken, we're loading TMR into the feed cart in front of the barn. And since we've had 21 inches of snow this month on top of the mud, the yard in front of the barn is a rutted-up, muddy mess, not even remotely suitable for a recovering cow.
Instead, as soon as Malibu had inched along up to the front of the barn, we moved the newborn calves into our utility bay and put Malibu in the newborn bay. The situation was less than ideal, but at least Malibu wouldn't be living in the aisle anymore. Ideal or not, our efforts were rewarded when, the morning after moving Malibu into the calf pen, she was standing when Glen got to the barn.
So, after the snow and the mud and losing Pigeon, there was one small victory to celebrate last week. "I'm having a good day," Glen said later, smiling. "Malibu got up."
She's got some recuperating to do yet, so only time will tell whether Malibu makes a full recovery, but at least she's got a chance to be the queen again.